Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sly Fox & Kitten in Danger

This is never a welcome sight to a 
chicken keeper.
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Most mornings I get a message from Sander that says, Morning love. But today was just Morning, followed by, I have bad news. It felt like I sat there and watched the Justin is typing... animation for an eternity. The first thought that came to my mind was that something has happened to {his} Grandma. She's 99 and has had a few setbacks lately. But no...he wouldn't give really bad news over Facebook messenger.

Instead, he told me that at 6 a.m. this morning, he woke to the sound of the dog barking and a chicken squawking. The dogs sleep with us so if they're out in the yard barking while we're in bed, we know something is wrong. But I sleep through most things that aren't the apocalypse.

So I had no idea he'd jumped out of bed and gone to the backyard, found a bunch of feathers, counted our chickens and realized one was missing, and looked over our neighbors fence just in time to see a fox sprinting away. Then he got ready for work and left us all asleep and unaware of the tragedy in the coop that morning.

So he told me when I was awake, thanks to the kids and their morning energy. Which I do not have any of. Morning energy.

He came home for an early lunch break and upon further inspection we found that the silly chickens--to their own detriment--had pecked through the wire on the automatic hydraulic coop door Sander installed this spring. Instead of remembering to manually close and open the coop door at morning and night, he had installed this automatic door operator, on a timer, with a solar panel to power it. Smart guy. But it didn't close last night since the chickens disarmed their own security system. And our chickens were sitting ducks for any predator.

They will peck at anything that resembles a worm. The door was meant to "lockdown" the coop around sundown, as chickens naturally know to get into the coop as the sun starts to set. Just as they know when it's safe to leave as the sun rises.

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The fox had made off with one of our Sicilian buttercups. They are/were the last two of our original flock. They are/were beautiful, and the most flighty {meaning they should have been the hardest for a predator to catch}, but any chicken is vulnerable really. Especially without a fierce rooster to protect them. Thank goodness for our dogs, though, who've done a decent job keeping most predators at bay. The night we came home and discovered raccoons sleeping in our nesting box was the one night we'd been away with our dogs!

Poor Pearl, an Easter egger, also apparently was assaulted by Mr. Fox. We couldn't find any bleeding or brokenness, just a large spot of missing feathers. She is clearly in pain as she's balled up with her head pulled in. Chickens only rest like that when in pain or sleeping. The Sicilian buttercup who survived had to be rescued from the fence by my husband. She'd tried to escape through the wire and had gotten herself stuck, poor thing. They're traumatized. I'll have to spoil them with extra mealworms today.

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So, you see, we really haven't had the best day. Sander inspected our neighbors yard but all they found was a bunch of feathers that continued down the driveway. So our poor buttercup is long gone. This is the sort of thing you can expect to happen from time to time with chickens, sadly. Even in the city, coyotes and raccoons and foxes abound. Animal husbandry is never a thing for the faint of heart. I was devastated when we lost our first chicken, Big Betty. But over time we've lost a handful and it's a little less sad every time. I guess that's how farmers get used to it. They must become desensitized? It's still hard and sad, especially when you have to tell the kids.

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Doesn't it seem that when you're already having one of these types of days, all the rest of the things follow suit? Yep. As if a million feathers weren't enough to clean up, Paxton decided to color himself a Minecraft skeleton.

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Then there's Poe. Our adolescent kitten who's been getting himself into tree trouble. And this isn't the 1950s where you could just call the fire department. {Or so our children's books told us.} We wish our cats wouldn't go outdoors in the first place {with foxes about} but they long ago learned to use the necessary dog door and once they get a taste for the outside...

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But he's gotten into tree trouble several times now, and we've always been able to rescue him by getting him far enough down to grab him. Until today. I walked out back to water my sprouts and found the girls ready with a rescue blanket while the cat was, this time, perilously close to the weak ends of the branches. He wanted down, but he couldn't figure out how. So I did what most millenial parents would do, and took a video of the rescue while letting my kids handle things. {heh.}

He's survived the tops of the tree so many times now that I've become desensitized to this as well, and I honestly did not think he'd fall. But he did! And as you can hear in the video, I apparently found it morbidly humorous. I guess after the morning we've had, all I could do was laugh nervously. The girls obviously didn't hold the blanket tight enough, but I think it helped. He's gone up much higher in the tree, but thankfully this time he was only 10 or 12 feet up. Curiosity killed the cat and cats have 9 lives are truly phrases rooted in truth. No worries, he's walking around perfectly fine. And we're going to have to put one of those metal tree things on so he can't get up there again.

This video is ridiculous:




Happy trails to you. 
Heather

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